Two super-lyrical, extra-passionate Russian works, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, make a sumptuous, satisfying pair. Both were served up in rousing fashion Thursday night at Meyerhoff Hall.
As he demonstrated on a delectable
On Thursday, Chen showed just as persuasively that he can be edgy, volatile, even a little rough, too. His account of the Tchaikovsky concerto was a grabber from the start, partly because of the sheer tonal intensity. Where other fiddlers apply sweetness, this one kept things spicy.
Throughout, the violinist pushed his Strad to the limit, sometimes at the expense of tonal purity in the most heated passages, but always with engaging results. Other than some not-quite-centered harmonics in the first movement, Chen's technique held firm as he stirred up the familiar music. And he had seamless partnering from Graf, who drew tight, vivid playing from the orchestra.
The audience coaxed an encore from the violinist, a Paganini Caprice delivered with spring-loaded lyricism.
Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony brought the evening to a memorable close.
It is possible to give this soul-on-sleeve score an extra tug here, a push there, the way I've heard Yuri Temirkanov and
With an economy of gestures on the podium, the conductor unleashed remarkable power surges from the musicians when Rachmaninoff's most restless themes reached their crests and when, in the second movement, the counterpoint started flying. Graf had the finale bounding along almost giddily, resulting in one of this most potent BSO-induced highs this season.
There was great subtlety as well, notably in the Adagio, where the violins sculpted their ecstatic melodic lines with a juicy tone and
Add this performance to the BSO's growing list of stellar efforts. At every turn, the playing had commendable cohesion and character, right from the delicate pianissimo at the start (in recent years, the orchestra has become more and more telling at the soft end of the dynamic scale).
The program repeats Friday at Meyerhoff, Saturday at Strathmore.
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